The heart-wrenching story of Jimmy Kimmel's infant son explains why he's so passionate about healthcare

For the past two nights, late-night Jimmy Kimmel has been doing battle with Republican politicians and conservative media over the latest bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Some conservative outlets like the National Review and conservative commentators on Fox News attacked Kimmel for inserting himself into the debate over the so-called Graham-Cassidy healthcare legislation, arguing that he is going well beyond his expertise.

In his monologue on Wednesday night, Kimmel explained why the healthcare debate is personal for him and why he feels he needs to comment on it.

“The reason I’m talking about this is because my son had open heart surgery and has to have two more,” Kimmel said. “Because of that, I learned that there are kids with no insurance in the same situation. I don’t get anything out of this.”

In May, Kimmel introduced his connection to the healthcare debate. His son Billy was born with
tetralogy of fallot with pulmonary atresia, a rare heart defect requiring open heart surgery just hours after his birth.

The surgery and subsequent care would have cost massive amounts of money if not for insurance. Kimmel highlighted the fact that the Republican healthcare bill being considered at the time could have undermined protections that prevented insurance companies from imposing lifetime limits on patients.

Before Obamacare’s implementation, many children born with serious illnesses like Kimmel’s son could hit their lifetime cap at a young age, putting immense financial strain on their families. Additionally, children born with similar problems could be denied insurance or charged much higher premiums later in life since they had a preexisting condition.

“If your baby is going to die, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” Kimmel said during an emotional monologue following his son’s birth. “I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican, or a Democrat, or something else, we can all agree on.”

Following the heart-wrenching monologue, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana appeared on the show and pledged that any bill that came through Congress had to maintain protections on people with preexisting conditions and not allow lifetime limits. Cassidy even dubbed this the “Jimmy Kimmel test” and said he would oppose any bill that didn’t pass the test.

Cassidy, however, is the author of the latest GOP healthcare bill — and many healthcare experts say his legislation could gut the protections he pledged to keep.

That fired up Kimmel again. He tweeted a picture Tuesday of himself with his son in his lap doing research for that night’s monologue.

Kimmel argued during an emotional Tuesday night monologue that the Graham-Cassidy legislation did not meet the “Kimmel test.” He said Cassidy had lied to his face.

While Kimmel admits he is not an expert, his comments are aligned with analysis from health policy analysts at the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation and Avalere Health. The left-leaning Commonwealth Fund and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, as well as the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, have also echoed his points.

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